Folic acid, or vitamin B9, may help treat allergic reactions and allergy symptoms, according to researchers from the Johns Hopkins Children’s Center.
Folate occurs naturally in food while folic acid is the synthetic form of this vitamin. Sources include cereals, baked goods, leafy vegetables, asparagus, fruits, legumes, yeast, mushrooms and organ meat (such as beef liver or kidneys).
Previous studies have noted a potential link between folate and inflammatory conditions such as heart disease.
In the study, funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), researchers reviewed medical data from in 8,083 patients ages 2-85 who participated in the 2005-2006 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). During the study, serum folate levels and total IgE levels were measured. IgE, or immunoglobulin E, is a class of antibodies that mediates allergic reactions. The authors also recorded asthma and respiratory symptoms.
Higher levels of folate were linked to lower IgE levels, fewer reported allergies, less wheezing and a lower likelihood of developing asthma. People with the lowest folate levels (less than eight nanograms per milliliter of blood) had a 40 percent increased risk of wheezing, 30 percent increased risk of having elevated IgE levels, 31 percent increased risk of allergic symptoms and a 16 percent higher risk of asthma compared to those with the highest levels of folate (above 18 nanograms per milliliter of blood).
However, additional research is needed to confirm these early findings and to determine exactly how folate may work. The researchers plan to compare the effects of folic acid to placebo in people with allergies and asthma.
1. Natural Standard: The Authority on Integrative Medicine. http://www.naturalstandard.com. Copyright © 2009.
2. Matsui EC, Matsui W. Higher serum folate levels are associated with a lower risk of atopy and wheeze. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2009 Apr 29. View Abstract
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